Indian Decade

Women’s Day Anti-climax

New bill, to be a ‘gift to Indian women,’ trampled by opposition on Women’s Day.

Well, it seems the Women’s Day celebrations didn’t end with a party here in Delhi. In a sort of anti-climax, the Women’s Reservation Bill (that I spoke about yesterday) was vehemently opposed when it came up for discussion in the Upper House of Parliament.

Ironically, the bill has the committed support of more than 200 members in the 233-member Upper House. But, a group of around ten Members of Parliament who oppose the bill violently disrupted the House by storming in, tearing official papers, even attacking Vice President of India Hamid Ansari, who is the chair of the Upper House. Rajya Sabha (Upper House) was repeatedly adjourned and the 6 pm vote on the bill was put off to Tuesday, March 9.

The opposition has slammed the government for backing down and getting cold feet at a crucial moment for what has become one of India’s longest pending legislations. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for an all-party meeting on the issue, and government spokespersons were all over Indian television networks last night assuring that the bill will be brought to a vote today.

But, few are keeping their fingers crossed. Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi said a few days back that she wanted the bill to be a gift to Indian women on the centenary of the International Women’s Day. Gandhi is said to be passionately in favour of the bill. And if she—often called the most powerful woman in India—can’t get what she wants, what hope is there for millions of ‘more ordinary’ Indian women?